November 13, 2019

Finding Personal Peace During Painful Times


It’s hard to be a human, especially right now. During a time like this, we need to touch base with core spiritual principles. Here are seven spiritual tips to find a sense of equanimity and balance when all around you is chaos.

1. Gather your people; don’t engage in fights

Gather your people — the ones who help you keep perspective or who remind you of what is true. Call a friend and make a date for lunch or a walk.

Community makes everything more bearable. 

Online, make sure you follow people whom you trust, are uplifting and honest. 

If being online is difficult, set your privacy settings to see only posts or tweets from people you follow.

Avoid negative people. Create an online community filled with truth-tellers and inspiration.

Stop trying to change people or engage with people who push your buttons. As Maya Angelou said, “When people show you who they are, believe them.”

2. Don’t dwell on catastrophe; work with what you know now

Our minds are always scanning the environment for danger. However, engaging in “what if” scenarios isn’t helpful or healthy.

Stay with what you know, moment by moment. Instead of going from, “we lost this court case” to “this will be the end of democracy,” pull back from the brink and focus on the here and now. 

3. Don’t abandon your core values

Remind yourself of what you believe. Write down what you know to be true.

Mine: I believe justice will prevail. I believe people are generally good at heart. I believe truth eventually will emerge. I believe good people working together can accomplish anything. Kindness heals.

Keep your values in front of you. The Shema contains the wisdom to keep our most cherished beliefs constantly before us.

4. Fill your cup; seek out inspiration

Challenging times call for religious or universal teachings that hold powerful truths. 

Some verses that roll around in my mind: “Justice, justice shall you pursue” (Deuteronomy 16:20) and “Let justice well up like water, righteousness like an unfailing stream.” (Amos 5:24).

However you find comfort or truth, now is a good time to seek out spiritual wisdom.

5. Remember inspirational leaders who survived difficult times

“Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms — to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.” — Viktor Frankl 

Remember the people who came before you and how they endured painful times.

I always think of Frankl, who survived Nazi concentration camps and subsequently wrote “Man’s Search for Meaning.” I wonder how he saw kindness, even at Auschwitz. If he could find it there, I can, too. 

6. Take time for beauty

Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel, who escaped Nazi Germany, and whose family was murdered, went on to write about living a life of awe and wonder. 

We must find ways to include the horror and the marvelous.

Yes — this is a scary news story, but look at these flowers just beginning to bloom.

Our core democratic values are being assaulted, but this piece of cello music is glorious.

It is essential to consciously seek out balance from the awful. Seeking awe is a spiritual practice.

7. Find humor

Every day, find laughter. Laughing is essential for lifting your soul. 

Laughter provides needed relief. Watching old “Seinfeld” episodes or clips of adorable dogs and cats, babies laughing — search for this. Follow people on social media who make you laugh.

I hope you have found these tips helpful. Let me know.

Rabbi Jill Zimmerman is a rabbi-at-large in Orange County. She is a spiritual entrepreneur and social activist. You can find her online. Interested in more spiritual tips? You can subscribe here to Rabbi Jill’s newsletter.